Oct. 23, 2015. One year ago today I was celebrating my 60th birthday with my husband Tom and my true-blue and decades-long friends Jill (best thing I took out of marriage number 2—besides my kids) and Marcia (best thing I took out of marriage number one and that includes the cottage) and their main squeezes in New York, seeing Broadway shows and having a wonderful birthday dinner at a cool Brooklyn restaurant with a name like Hair of the Dog or something animal like. All I know is we sat at a round table, had great food and drinks and talked and laughed and asked the waiter to take a picture that didn’t really turn out which makes me especially sad because it was the last time we were all together. By New Year’s Tom was too sick to travel and by February he was dead.
We didn’t have that many birthdays together and we didn’t make a big deal out of them. It was actually harder missing him on October 1st which would have been the 5th anniversary of our first date and the 2nd anniversary of our wedding. By our first anniversary he was already diagnosed and in chemo with an uncertain but none too cheerful prognosis. I wrote him a poem because any other gift seemed useless:
I Don’t Want to Lose You (a poem for our 1st anniversary)
I don’t want to lose you.
It took me so long to find you—
For God or the universe or the happy Internet genies to send your handsome face to my ancient computer and change my life forever.
Maybe these four years should be enough, maybe they will have to be.
I am not ungrateful, quite the opposite. I am thankful every day
for the chance to know you, to love you, to hold you and laugh with you—
for the lessons in love and life I have learned at your side,
for the inexpressible comfort of being thoroughly known, completely understood and loved anyway,
for the safety and happiness that come with knowing that your warm embrace has my back, both literally and figuratively.
But I am greedy. I want more and more and more.
More adventures, more bike rides, more lazy beach days, more family dinners, more band-at-the-cottage weekends, more crosswords, more trips, more kisses, more YOU.
I want you forever—to the end of our days,
‘til Alyssa has babies and Franny makes her first million,
‘til they take away our drivers’ licenses and put us in a home.
That’s my movie. No edits. No rewrites.
But for now I will take my cues from you and wake up each day so happy to be living this crazy life holding hands with my strong, kind, handsome, warm and loving husband—the best partner any girl could ever hope for.
I love you, sweetheart.
So here I am—61, without my sweet husband. I have a huge and beautiful mum plant on my front stoop from a book club friend and former piano mom, flowers on my dining room table from the aforementioned Jill, roses from my sister from the Sweet Lorraine’s lunch she treated me to, cards and texts and emails and a huge hug from my 15 year-old. I am off to a Women’s Retreat at a new church I’ve been attending. I don’t think I will know a soul but that’s ok. Seems like a good time for new beginnings.
I know Katherine Heigl (she was Izzie on Grey’s Anatomy) is supposed to be an on-set Hollywood nightmare—DIVA supreme—but I will always remember reading an interview where she spoke of her brother’s untimely death and said that of course her family was devastated, but they never once, not one member, said that this tragedy meant that life was not worth living. She said life is ALWAYS worth living and living well. I know of no one who would echo that sentiment more than Tom. He squeezed every drop of juice out of his 64 years and I think he will be cheering from heaven if I find a way to do the same. Here I go…….